Much evidence suggests that animals can serve as therapeutic tools for those working with vulnerable individuals. This exploratory study analysed the accounts of staff and offenders involved in a UK prison-based animal programme. The purpose of this paper was to explore the perceived impact of such a programme with male offenders.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with three service users and five staff members. Participants were drawn from a special unit in a category B prison which housed an animal centre.
A thematic analysis identified four salient themes: a sense of responsibility, building trust, enhanced communication, and impact on mood and behaviour. Findings revealed that offenders seemed to gain particular benefit from interacting with the two Labrador dogs which were present on the wing.
The study highlights the therapeutic potential of the presence of animals in prisons. Their implications of this for forensic practice are discussed.
This paper offers an important contribution to the sparse literature about prison-based animal programmes in the UK.
Mercer, J., Gibson, K. and Clayton, D. (2015), "The therapeutic potential of a prison-based animal programme in the UK", The Journal of Forensic Practice, Vol. 17 No. 1, pp. 43-54. https://doi.org/10.1108/JFP-09-2014-0031
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